Political Developments - November 2017

Presidential election in Kyrgyzstan was held on 15th October, 2017. Sooronbai Jeenbekov, a protégé of outgoing president Almazbek Atambayev and candidate from Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK), won with 55% - a stronger result than earlier polls had predicted. Omurbek Babanov, multimillionaire leader of Respublika Party conceded defeat but said he would investigate irregularities. Jeenbekov will assume office on 1st December, 2017.

In run up to final vote, it was expected that the contest would go to second round as none of the main contenders would be able to cross the 50% threshold in the first round. Heavy intrigue was witnessed in recent months including arrest of a prominent opposition lawmaker on charges of plotting a pro-Babanov coup; a government election official's death in a "criminal" traffic accident; and  President Atambayev himself warning neighboring Kazakhstan not to impose Babanov as "its own" candidate. Relations between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan nosedived after meeting between Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Babanov on 19th September. This was sharply criticized by Kyrgyz President and government as an attempt to interfere in the election. Atambayev went so far as to chastise Nazarbaev who has been in power since collapse of Soviet Union, over his long rule. Kazakhstan's imposition of controls on border with Kyrgyzstan on 9th October to ensure security was cited by Atambayev as a reason to cancel his visit to Sochi for the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Summit. He sent his Prime Minister instead.

Jeenbekov will inherit a raft of problems, foremost the current feud with Kazakhstan, touched off by Atambayev’s continued criticism.

Atambayev's willingness to step down from power after serving the single six-year term allowed under constitution has been praised in the West as a sign that democracy is back on track in Kyrgyzstan. However reports of plan by Atambayev to rule by proxy after he formally leaves office, have raised serious concerns.

International observers reported that the election was competitive, as voters had a broad choice and candidates could generally campaign freely, although cases of misuse of public resources, pressure on voters and vote-buying remained a concern. European observers said that vote-buying and significant procedural problems marred the vote.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Contact Group on Afghanistan met after a pause of seven years, in Moscow. Meeting was attended by diplomats and deputy foreign minister from Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan represented his country. A major concern of participants was relocation of terrorists from Syria to Afghanistan under banner of Daesh—Islamic State. Participants stated that over 4,000 terrorists of Islamic State had already arrived in Afghanistan. India expressed its willingness to work closely with SCO members to bring peace, prosperity and stability in Afghanistan. India stressed on need for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled national peace and reconciliation process in an environment free of terror and violence, continued assistance for socio-economic development based on priorities of Afghan people, and ensuring greater connectivity and regional integration for Afghanistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a rare visit to Turkmenistan. The visit came amid dispute between Russia’s largest mobile provider and Turkmen local authorities. The two Presidents signed a "strategic partnership" as a symbolic gesture. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov stressed that both Moscow and Ashgabat seek Afghan settlement through peaceful and diplomatic ways. Putin thanked Berdymukhamedov for supporting the Russian language. Putin awarded the Order of Alexander Nevsky to Berdymukhamedov.

During visit of Kyrgyz President to Uzbekistan on 5th October, the two countries agreed to demarcate 85% of their 1,280 km long border. More than 1,170 kilometers of the border is now agreed upon. It is possible that Kyrgyzstan might sign border demarcation agreement with Uzbekistan on remaining border areas by 1st December, 2017. A landmark Declaration on Strategic Partnership was signed during Atambayev's visit to deepen political dialogue, boost cross-border and regional security cooperation, and enhance economic and trade ties. Leaders conveyed readiness to discuss water and energy issues which have caused controversy in the past.

United Nations has called on Uzbekistan to enact reforms to allow citizens to practice their faiths freely saying that strengthening diversity and freedom of religion can help combat religious extremism.

In meeting of Berlin Eurasian Club in Brussels on achievements and goals of ''Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) between Kazakhstan and European Union'', EU declared its readiness to cooperate more actively in non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. EU noted the importance of continuing democratic reforms in Kazakhstan and their mutual interest in continuing dialogue on human rights and civil society. After two years of decline, trade turnover between the two showed a 27% increase in first seven months of 2017 compared to same period last year.

Russia will host next meeting of Council of Heads of Government of SCO member states on November 30 - December 1, 2017. Agenda of forthcoming meeting includes development of trade and economic cooperation and promotion of humanitarian ties within SCO framework. Iran's accession to SCO will be on agenda.

In a closed-door meeting with representatives of SCO countries, Turkish Prime Minister discussed the idea of Turkey's membership of SCO. He said that Turkey will work with SCO to combat terrorism, share intelligence and assist economically. He stated that European Union is a 'failing mess' and that is why United Kingdom has chosen to leave it.

In a press statement on 16 October, Moscow Grand Mufti warned of dangers of radicalization of Tajik labour migrants in Russia and sought to link it to a new terrorist organization ‘Khorasan’, which was being established along Afghanistan’s borders with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

 

November 20, 201

 

 

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About the Author

Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar

Former Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia; President, Institute of Global Studies and Distinguished Fellow, Ananta Centre

Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar belongs to the Indian Foreign Service and has acquitted his responsibilities in the diplomatic service for 34 years. He was Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia and has worked in senior diplomatic positions in Indian Embassies/Missions in Washington DC, Brussels, Moscow, Geneva, Tehran, Dhaka and Bangkok and also at Headquarters in India. He negotiated for India in the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and in negotiations for India-EU, India-ASEAN and India-Thailand Free Trade Agreements.

He contributed significantly to strengthening strategic ties and promoting cultural cooperation between India and USA, EU, Russia and other countries.Ambassador Sajjanhar worked as head of National Foundation for Communal Harmony to promote amity and understanding between different religions, faiths and beliefs. Ambassador Sajjanhar has been decorated by Governments of Kazakhstan and Latvia with their National Awards and by Universal Peace Federation with Title of ''Ambassador of Peace.'' Currently Ambassador Sajjanhar is President of Institute of Global Studies, New Delhi. He writes, travels and speaks extensively on issues relating to international relations, foreign policy and themes of contemporary relevance and significance. He appears widely on TV panel discussions. Ambassador Sajjanhar is interested in reading, music and travelling. His wife Madhu is an economist and an educationist. They have a son and a daughter both of who are accomplished singers. Their son passed out of Yale University and their daughter is pursuing her PhD at University of Minnesota.